Art & The Conscious Mind: The Unseen

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‘My eyes at the moment of the apparitions’, August Natterer

(Image taken from; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hallucination#mediaviewer/File:August_Natterer_Meine_Augen_zur_Zeit_der_Erscheinungen.jpg)

Art & the Conscious mind has taken a strange turn as of later, the workshop last thursday focused on a subject quite close to home; Hallucinations. Myself and Sarah have experienced a variety of hallucinations during our time on this earth, and it was fascinating to learn about examples of artists that had experienced the same things and then turned these into a drive to craft art. As with the rest of the Art & the Conscious mind module, I am struggling with the notions coming through, not to understand them, but to physically represent the states of consciousness I often feel during a hallucination, or my sleep paralysis. There was a series of imagery explored in the lecture; Entopic imagery, which is imagery projected by the body or mind, my sleep paralysis falls under this umbrella term, as there is nothing that causes it but my own mind, and often leaves me trapped within the dream until I can find a way to wake myself up out of it. As well as this, Hypnagogic imagery; imagery that is so vivid and extraordinary it can cause the viewer to hallucinate. This was often attributed to cavemen as they wandered within the caves they found solace in, with nothing more than a flickering torch for their light. The caves were often seen as an entrance to the spiritual realm, and the flickering torch against the oddly shaped rock formations would do nothing to quash this claim; Imagine the shadows dancing, eerie and malicious, running, twirling, around the visitors to the cave. It would send anyone into a trance; and the cave paintings are a testament to this.

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The Dogon people dancing, adorned with their masks

(Image taken from; https://c1.staticflickr.com/9/8001/6983257392_31f07c0b78_z.jpg)

Animism was also brought up; practised by tribal peoples throughout history, but more specifically, the Dogon tribe of Africa. I have researched the Dogon before, as they have appeared in numerous theories about ancient aliens (the belief that aliens have visited earth before and aided the evolution of humanity, being perceived as deities in the process), and they have a surprisingly vast and varied knowledge of the stars and night sky, things known before they were known to modern astronomy. Nevertheless, they were brought up in this workshop because of their connection to ‘Animism’; the theory that inanimate objects can be given spiritual meaning and significance, to the point of being sentient. Seen in religions throughout the world, the Dogon take it upon themselves to craft masks featuring both the features of humans and animals, in order to channel the spirit of such an animal for better hunts; theoretically appropriating the ability of another species in order to better slaughter them. This concept, reminiscent of Nietzche’s ‘God is Dead’ theory, aids us in our understanding of the ever increasing sense of death that has begun to encompass this earth.

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(Image taken from; http://production.slashmedias.com/main_images/images/000/000/039/Guo-Fengyi2_original_large.jpg)

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(Image taken from; http://raneytown.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/fengyi.jpg)

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(Image taken from; http://www.artinitaly.it/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/Guo-Fengyi.jpg)

An artist that fascinated me that James showed us was ‘Guo Fengyi’, a japanese artist with no formal artistic training, who become afflicted with terrible arthritis later in life. She began a type of Zen buddhist meditation in order to aid her in her pain, and she began to get better. However, as she got better, and the more she meditated, she would enter long trances in which she would draw detailed maps of the energy flows throughout her body. She explained later that a higher being was working through her, channelling the energy and guiding her hands in it’s movement. The pieces she created are fascinating, showcasing a beautiful understanding of bodily energy, and the euphoria one feels when hallucinating and/or meditating. The most interesting thing is the way that the body appears in her paintings, although at first alien, notable human features are seen throughout the imagery; the first, a picture of some alien life-form and what can only be assumed to be the portrait of Fengyi, and the second detailing a ball of energy; resembling the human brain. There is an ongoing message of trance, and mind altering states unlocking some deeper, quite possibly higher, understanding of reality. How do these artists unlock that higher meaning? and how do they channel it so effectively?

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We then had a short presentation of one of the final scenes in ‘2001: A Space odyssey’ by Stanley Kubrick, in which one of the titular characters travels beyond the edge of the universe. He then experiences a vivid hallucination of multicoloured and alien landscapes, as well as a light show that becomes steadily more erratic and extended as he travels through the vast expanse of space. There is something terrifying about these hallucinations that people feel, and they are often experienced because there is either not enough, or too much, stimulation to the brain. We were then asked to draw something that we have seen during a hallucinatory experience; I chose an experience I had in a festival, in which the stage was located in a uv forest; on a hillside, the stage was at the bottom allowing everyone to witness the ever shifting uv projection on the back spread of the stage. The canopy was filled with hundreds, if not thousands, of uv butterflies, disco balls and reflective surfaces, as well as a great deal of UV and Neon lights. All around me, things began to shift, the butterflies’ patterns shifted, people became more and more in tune with my own soul, and I began to experience a hallucination of the landscape, with myself in it, panning around and twisting in a great number of ways, as if my consciousness had been transported out of my mind and was shifting around the landscape, observing the scene that my body was trapped within. As the hallucination became more and more contrived and erratic, people became, as I like to put it ‘Points of Refraction in a landscape.’ I returned to my head, and the landscape was exactly the same; it had begun to rain ever so slightly, and the lights reflected and refracted through the millions of raindrops, and people became kaleidoscopic in appearance. The centre of their being was the point of their energy, and the rest of their form reflected and refracted around this point like something viewed through a kaleidoscope. It was intense, but obsessively fascinating, and I have struggled to put into pictures or words what I saw, but I could see the energy of myself, and the energy of everyone in that forest, and how it radiated out from their body; geometrically.

This field module has been fantastic so far, and is really changing the way I think and perceive the world. Bring more on!

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